Hospitals Get Healthy

By Dr. Carol Wentz Randaci, OMD, AP

The attitude “what we eat doesn’t matter” is completely wrong, and healthcare institutions are starting to change their food policies.

On March 1, 2021, something monumental and truly wonderful happened in Beirut, Lebanon. The Hayek Hospital began serving only vegan whole-food plant-based meals.

“Patients will no longer wake up from surgery to be greeted with ham, cheese, milk and eggs—the very foods that may have contributed to their health problems in the first place.” Instead, the hospitals spokesperson said, “Adopting a plant-based diet has been scientifically proven not only to stop the evolution of certain diseases but it can also reverse them. We have the moral responsibility to act upon and align our beliefs with our actions…”

When the staff at the Hayek Hospital read that the World Health Organization had classified the processed meat they served to their patients as group 1A carcinogenic (causes cancer), and that classification is the same group that includes tobacco, they decided to call out the insaneness of their current policy. When they found out that red meat is classified as a group 2A carcinogenic (also cancer causing), they knew there was a bigger quandary then they initially realized. When the directors of the hospital really let that information sink in, they saw the necessity for change as a moral dilemma and realized if they continued to serve animal products in the hospital … “then serving meat in a hospital is like serving cigarettes in a hospital,” said the spokesperson.

The hospital continued by pointing out that according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three out of four emerging infectious diseases come from animals—and it is now a scientifically proven fact that a whole-food plant-based diet not only stops the evolution of certain diseases, but it can also reverse them. The hospital posted: “We then have the moral responsibility to act upon and align our beliefs with our actions. Taking the courage to look at the elephant in the eye.”

It Matters

The attitude “what we eat doesn’t matter” is completely wrong. There’s an elephant in the room, and many knowingly ignore it. Simple truth: Yes it matters—it all matters. It’s time to call out the elephant, and Hayek Hospital did just that. Bravo! They made a very bold decision and moved their institution into a new type of “Health Centered Hospital.”

More and more hospitals are examining the abundance of scientific studies and research demonstrating specifically how and why what a person eats either creates health or causes problems. Anyone with GERDS, acid reflux, IBS, Crohn’s disease, or an any troublesome digestive condition can attest to how it matters. Hayek Hospital is a shining example of an institution that has opened the door into preventative health care—promoting health instead of only servicing illness and treating symptoms.

Similarly, thousands of medical personnel across the United States have joined together to back the Make Hospitals Healthy campaign. The group offers chef training and tool kits to help hospitals make the transition.

The American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates also issued a new policy statement encouraging hospitals to start serving meals that are healthier for patients. It calls on hospitals to eliminate processed meat and offer plant-based options instead. The hospitals that changed their menus are receiving positive feedback for the choice of food they now offer. “There’s more variety, food is fresher and the flavors are actually delicious—and I can’t believe I just said that about hospital food,” said one former patient.

Along with better food, these forward-thinking hospitals now provide nutrition and cooking classes for free. It’s such a wonderful way to help patients heal and reduce their risks for negative health outcomes. After returning home, patients continue to receive nutrition counseling, a five-week series on diabetes, and an upcoming healthy cooking program.

Whole-food plant-based menus are finding their way into many hospitals around the world. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Oldways, and Health Care Without Harm are letting their voice be heard. PCRM has been a leading voice in the shift from a harmful to a healthful diet in New York Hospitals. With more than 12,000 medical community members, PCRM is working to provide more vegan meals to patients: “The Physicians Committee’s Hospital Toolkit provides the different steps a hospital can take to adapt menu options, win over the staff, and educate the patients. The Physicians Committee also has countless healthy plant-based recipes to share. Guaranteed plant-based options.”

As reported in LiveKindly [] news, “PCRM has bolstered laws that guarantee vegan options for hospital patients. In October 2019, the Washington D.C. Council introduced the Healthy Hospitals Amendment Act of 2019 []. The proposed bill would ensure that Washington D.C. hospitals provide plant-based meals that are low in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. PCRM supported similar legislation in California. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law guaranteeing hospital patients healthy vegan options in September 2018. This year, PCRM will help New York hospitals introduce plant-based meal options. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed bill S1471A/A4072, which guarantees vegan options at mealtimes, into law last December.

Evidence-Based Research

With the “abundance of evidence-based research” regarding the health benefits of a plant-based diet, hospitals recognize the need to lead the health movement by offering more options to patients and staff,” according to Dr. Susan Levin, Director of Nutrition Education at PCRM. Healthy, plant-based meals can help individuals “fight heart disease, diabetes, and obesity; not only do they feel better while in the hospital, but it is an opportunity to teach patients how to eat once they leave the facility,” she added.

When asked if changing a whole hospital to a whole-food vegan menu was a hard decision to make, the response most often was, no. Patients also reported astonishing affects, from lowering their meds to having more vigor.

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. It was responsible for 840,768 deaths in 2016, according to the American College of Cardiology. And death rates have experienced an 18.6 percent increase year over year. Dr. Kim Williams, a vegan cardiologist and former president of the American College of Cardiology, explained in an interview with Health Science that a plant-based diet comes with additional benefits. “Hypertension shows one of the fastest improvements following the adoption of a plant-based diet,” he said. “This way of eating also lowers cholesterol and insulin requirements so that type-2 diabetes improves dramatically. And as a result, the reliance on medication decreases. In short, all of the major risk factors are diminished with plant-based nutrition.”

Indeed, research suggests following a plant-based diet can mitigate some of the risk factors associated with heart disease. These include high blood pressure and inflammation. Moreover, recent research has uncovered that a whole foods, plant-based diet can effectively reverse the side effects of type-2 diabetes as well.

Before You Go

If you need to take a hospital stay and you are already vegan, be sure to begin early in the admission process to let them know you are on a specific diet. Write it down, tell those in charge. If at all possible, find out before you go if the hospital dietitian is familiar with vegan nutrition. If not, ask how your dietary requirements will be met, and keep at it until you are served complete healthy whole foods, they will make a significant difference in your recovery.

Dr. Carol Wentz Randaci is the director of the Vegan Culinary Institute in Sarasota, FL, a board certified Oriental Medicine Doctor and Acupuncture Physician, Energy Therapist, Naturopath and Hopeful Human. Dr. Carol has trained with alternative medicine’s finest physicians and has practiced Raja Yoga meditation under the guidance of Ram Chanrda, Babuji Maharaja for 36 years. You can reach Dr. Carol at AiZen Healing Center by emailing or calling 941.284.8894.

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